At some point, it will be time to switch your baby from your breast milk onto something else, whether that is formula (if your baby is under 1 when you stop pumping, or if you need to supplement), or to milk if your baby is at least 12 months old. Here is how to make transitioning your baby off of breast milk as easy as possible.
Figuring Out What Milk to Switch Your Baby To
If you stop pumping before your baby turns 1, you will need to transition to formula. After your baby turns 1, though, you have to figure out what exactly your kid should be drinking instead of breast milk and/or formula, such as cow’s milk or other alternative milks, like soy milk. It’s a good idea to talk with your baby’s doctor about this – some doctors recommend whole cow’s milk for 1-year-olds, others say 2% or whatever the rest of the family drinks is fine (mine actually said whole for one kid and 2% for the other, so who knows).
It also might depend on your individual baby’s circumstances; for example, a doctor might be more likely to recommend whole milk for a baby on the lower end of the weight curve or an alternative milk for a baby who doesn’t tolerate lactose well.
If your baby has dairy allergies or doesn’t tolerate it well, there are alternative milks that you can feed your baby instead of cow’s milk:
- Soy Milk – Soy milk has about the same amount of protein as cow’s milk, and has some iron, but does not have sufficient calcium for babies. Some people have concerns about isoflavones in soy products and what is does to our reproductive systems, though the true effects are still being debated.
- Almond Milk – Nut beverages (of which almond milk is the most popular) are created by grounding nuts, straining, then liquifying the final product. These milks tend to be deficient in Vitamin B12 and have little protein compared to soy milk.
- Rice Milk – Rice milk is processed from brown rice, and it is the least allergenic alternative milks for allergy-sensitive families. The nutritional value of rice milk is very small, however, except for the fortified additives.
- Hemp Milk – Hemp milk appears to be a good alternative – it is a good source of protein, magnesium, iron, and vitamin E. It is generally well-tolerated by those with soy, dairy, and/or tree nut allergies. It is created from the seeds of the same plant used to make marijuana.
- Goat’s Milk – Goat’s milk contains lactose, so it might not be a good fit for kids with a cow’s milk allergy, but it is similar in composition to human breast milk and may be a good choice for some families. A multivitamin including iron and B-vitamins is needed for kids who drink goat’s milk.
Making the Transition from Breast Milk
Making the transition to a milk other than breast milk (or formula) can be as easy as just going cold turkey: one feeding your baby gets breast milk in a bottle, and the next he gets the milk or formula that you’re transitioning him to.
You can also make the transition gradually. On my son’s first birthday, I put just a splash of whole milk into his bottle to see if he’d take it and whether he had an allergic reaction. He didn’t seem to care one way or the other – or even notice the change – so over a week I gradually began increasing amount of whole milk in each bottle.
He was in daycare at the time, so I just kept bringing his milk in in bottles, as I always had, they were just made up partly of cow’s milk. Once he’d taken some bottles that were just cow’s milk, I stopped bringing in milk at all, and let the daycare serve him the milk that they had for the children as part of the program. At this point, when he got breast milk (I kept pumping for two months after he turned 1), I gave him only breast milk, and the same with cow’s milk, no more mixing it up.
If possible, I would recommend waiting to wean from the pump until after you’re started the transition and you know your baby will take the new formula/milk. It can be really stressful if you start the transition when you’re out of breast milk and your baby refuses the new milk you’d planned on.
Switching to Sippy Cups
One other thing to think about: if you’re switching to milk at age 1, you’re also at about the age that you make the transition from bottle to sippy cup.
If you’re nervous about these transitions, it might make sense to tackle them separately: get your baby drinking milk first out of a bottle, and then switch from a bottle to sippy cup, or vice versa. (My son had a really challenging transition to sippy cups – I literally bought 10 different kinds before finding one that worked. Now we have an entire cabinet in our kitchen devoted to rejected sippy cups!)References
- Gall, Stephanie. “An Updated Guide to Soy, Rice, Nut, and Other Non–Dairy Milks.” https://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2008issue1/2008_issue1_updateguide.php
- Dinsdale, Elsa. “Early Exposure to Soy Isoflavones and Effects on Reproductive Health: A Review of Human and Animal Studies.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257624/